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Raleigh couple accused of zip-tying 4-year-old girl to child's gate

Posted May 6, 2013

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— A Raleigh man and his girlfriend have been charged with child abuse after investigators say the pair used zip ties to bind his 4-year-old daughter and fasten her to a baby gate in their home.

Gerald Thomas Swinehart, 26, and Marlaine Victoria Coffey, 28, both of 931 S. East St., were arrested last month in Marin County, Fla., where, police say, they fled after the child was removed from their custody in March. The pair was extradited to Raleigh last week.

During their first court appearance Monday, Wake County Assistant District Attorney Jeff Cruden said child protective services became aware of the alleged abuse in March after Coffey took the child to Duke University Hospital with serious injuries.

"The 4-year-old victim was interviewed and talked about an initial injury to her mouth when the father – this defendant – had kicked her, and she hit a TV causing the injury," Cruden said.

Gerald Swinehart Raleigh pair charged with abusing 4-year-old

"During the course of that interview, she also talked about how her father would tie her to a dog/kid gate for extended periods of time," he continued. "She had wounds to her ankles and wrists consistent with that."

According to an April 16 arrest warrant, the alleged crimes happened in February and March. Swinehart is also accused of pushing down and kicking the child hard enough to "cause the victim's bottom teeth to protrude through her bottom lip," according to the warrant.

He is charged with two counts of felony intentional child abuse causing serious physical injury. Coffey faces a charge of felony intentional child abuse causing serious physical injury.

District Judge Jennifer Knox refused to lower bond for Swinehart, who said he was disabled. He was in the Wake County jail Monday evening under a $100,000 bond.

Knox, however, lowered Coffey's bond from $100,000 to $50,000.

According to court records, Swinehart has convictions dating to 2005 on nearly 2 dozen charges, most involving property crimes. He was last released from prison in June 2010.

48 Comments

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  • mfarmer1 May 14, 7:04 p.m.

    If they can do this to there own child, they also should not be allowed to have anymore children, the children should be taken from them, they should be both sterilized, they should be jailed, and not to be allowed to have any pets, forever.

  • gordonbabe May 8, 12:58 p.m.

    Look on the bright side... they'll have jail to look forward to and we all know what happens to child abusers in prison! Hope they're in Gen Pop.

    Prayers for healing, physically & emotionally go out to this little girl. No child should have to endure that kind of suffering.

  • esteryates69 May 7, 7:03 p.m.

    I have no feeling for this two people at all.It my believe they should put in prison for life. To make sure they never get a chance to hurt another child,or any one.

  • wayneboyd May 7, 4:36 p.m.

    Tied the child to the gate while these two (who are evi-
    dently sucking the life from taxpayers) did what?

  • bluewind May 7, 2:52 p.m.

    This is what happens when a society devalues life the way we have in America...i.e. abortion. Children aren't precious, and they aren't valued in America. We have blood on our hands.

  • mattcli May 7, 1:30 p.m.

    "I just cannot understand why people do these things to children. If they don't want them....then drop them off at the Police Station/Fire House or just leave them outside a store."

    They were probably collecting a government check because of her. They can't make money by giving the child up or actually caring about her well being.

  • Country Girlz Have MORE fun May 7, 12:32 p.m.

    Where is this child's mother?

  • feistyredhead2001 May 7, 10:15 a.m.

    How sad and tramatic for that baby... I pray she never goes back to that man or his girlfriend. I and truly pray that the company they keep in prison shows them exactly how that little girl felt !

  • tiblet May 7, 9:19 a.m.

    hoping this child gets a second chance with a family that will love and care for her...she surely deserves it.

  • texasncgirl May 7, 9:16 a.m.

    I knew this girl since grade school...we all knew she was a couple of screws short of a toolbox, but wow!! NEVER would have thought in a million years she would be capable of doing something like this.

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